Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My story? Stop me before it gets too boring......

I have been putting together a written history of my life, before I get senile and forget everything. Everyone should do this.

Just bits an' pieces....

I was born in Idaho Falls. 1955. Seems a long time ago now. Earliest memories were of traveling. A lot.

Early 60’s - Salt Lake City Utah, Des Moines Iowa, Birmingham Alabama, Farmington New Mexico, Truckee and Bakersfield California. There are more places but my memory has been blurred from all the years gone by.

Next, father took a job with MK and the Minutemen Missile silos on the plains east of Rapid City. Father divorced Mother at this time. She stayed in SD and he took a position in the Netherlands. I am shuffled back and forth, Dad, Mom, Dad, Mom…..I cross the Atlantic more times than I can remember, a seasoned traveler at an early age. Holland……I remember listening to Radio Veronica, Bus Stop by the Hollies in particular, playing while the construction workers played soccer in the street below our apartment at noon.

I attend school in the Netherlands, and spend my summers in Idaho with grandpa and grandma. Strict schooling for most of the year and then almost total freedom for 3 months. In Holland I was viewed as the heathen from the Wild West, in Idaho I was the flatlander who was way too cultured.

Holland was green. It was, for lack of a better word, tidy. Small, well kept lawns. Fences painted. People had manners. You were required to use them.

Father married a Dutch girl, Wilhemina Relena Pietersma. Blond. We lived in den Hague, Staaphorst, Meppel, Assen and then Ommen.

Her parents! Oupa en Oma.

Oupa en Ouma

Two week in Spain. Beaches. Hot sand. Gibraltar. I saw Africa from there. The road to Rhonda…..amazing!

London, all the time. Belgium to Luxumburg… through the Ardennes and the site(s) of the Battle of the Bulge. Amsterdam now and again. Flew home via Iceland.

My times in Idaho were days made in heaven. Splitting wood, bucking hay, moving sprinkler pipe. It was not all work, there were days of exploration. Days of adventure. Built a tree house out over the Snake River. Climbed every hill within five miles of home, Rode bikes down the steepest of paved roads, on the handlebars. Forded the Snake. Fished every evening. Picnics. Target practice with the bow. BB Gun wars. Learned about gun safety the hard way. Learned to swim. Like a fish.

It was a mile to the small store. I would walk it looking for pop bottles. Always found enough to trade in and buy a soda and a candy bar, and still have change.

Live with my mother for a while in South Dakota. She rented a place not far from Mt Rushmore, very cool. Secluded, quiet, beautiful. I love the Black Hills.

Back to the Netherlands for a school year and then the summer in Idaho again. Moved to Bangkok. Not in Kansas anymore……Laos, Malaysia, Singapore. A two year adventure. The war was still raging in Vietnam. Klongs and open markets. Sukhumvit Highway. Pattaya before it became notorious. Snakes and lizards….. everywhere.

Flew back to Holland, brief stops in Karachi, Beirut, Rome.

Holland for a few more years. Had a good friend who was a diplomat’s son. We traveled to Germany many, many times to stay at his parents place. Train ride there and back an adventure all its own. Dusseldorf. Koln (Cologne) Bonn. Saw and explored (among many) the Drachenfels castle "Dragon's Rock", in the Siebengebirge mountain. A legend recounts that Siegfried – the hero of the Nibelungenlied – killed a dragon living in a cave in the mountain, then bathed in its blood to became invulnerable. Hence, the mountain is named the "Dragon's Rock" -- Drachenfels.

Backpacked from Bonn to Trier. Spent 2 weeks in Norway with my father. The trip through Germany and Denmark fascinating. The coast around Hirtshals seemed remote and smelled of fish. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon while we were on the ferry across the Skagerrak. Watched McKennas Gold in a theatre in Kristiandsand.

Eerde - The Netherlands

Eventually made it back to Idaho, completing trip around the world that took years. All this before my 17th birthday.

Then several years of odd jobs and good times in Idaho. Backpacked and hiked most of the state. Floated the rivers before it became commercial. Hitchhiked to Seattle, found a construction job and worked all over the state. Good Times!

Traveled to Texas and roofed houses for a while. Hot, and though I could handle it, I missed the mountains. Decided Texas wasn’t for me. Gotta be honest here. I hate Texas.

Back to Idaho for a short while.

Got a job offer in Johannesburg. Off on another adventure. Met my future wife the first day I was there. The four years I lived in SA were the best years of my life. We both made good money. Lived modestly. And traveled. Got out into the bundu. Met real Africans. Climbed several times in the Drakensberg. Sani Pass. Tugela Falls, the 2nd highest on the planet. We spent weeks on the wild coast. Eastern Transvaal.....what a place. Sudwalla and Sterkfontein Caves. Lisbon Falls and countless others . Threw 100’s of pounds of candy to the native children. Bought their crude works of art.

Kathleen Natal ZA


JB Harris

Brought my bride home to Idaho. She cried for a week. “What have I done?” she thought to herself. 5 cents a second for her to call home at the time. And she did….$$$$$.

She fits right in now. Became a US citizen. She travels home every few years, and we try to send one of the children to go along each time. Eight weeks or so on a vacation! I mostly stay home, and that’s OK. Got my climbing and snowboarding to occupy my time.

Speaking of which....lots of snowboarding and climbing to be had here in Idaho. Not so fond of many of the people here, very narrow minded, and somewhat backwards, but mostly just narrow minded. Doesn't mean there aren't some really great people here, it's just that they are few and far in between.

There is more, and I will continue to add to it as time allows.

Now this boring tale doesn't include my drug smuggling and life of crime, I will leave that for those to read...... after I am dead!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Deadman Peak / Lookout

A business associate dropped by my office a few weeks ago. Just one of those "We want to do some more business and how soon can we get something going?" type visits. During the short meeting I got up rather stiffly, and walked over to the copy machine. He commented on my awkward movements and asked if I had been to the gym. I told him I had been climbing, he said "Really?, Where?" I told him I had been on a few short trips into the Wyoming Range, and loved the area. He then startled me by saying that as a very young man he had spent some time there, more specifically, in the Deadman Canyon locale.
Three -Toed Woodpecker

As a young man (he is now close to 70) his father would take him up to this area to load coal into their small truck. This was around 1955 and there were several coal mines in operation way up in the high places of this mountainous area. The mine they used the most was called the Blind Bull. To get to it they had to pass the Vail Mine, now known as the Deadman Mine.......

Deadman Cabin

We go back to February 1938. Five miners are wintering over in this remote spot high in the mountains. They are working the mine to stockpile coal to be sold and hauled out the next summer. Carrie Baker, the wife and mother to two of the miners also worked as a cook for all the men.

Deadman View

Carrie was busy making dinner for the men when she heard an explosion. Not unusual for the type of work they were involved in. Not long afterwards Henry Ash stumbled through the door. "There has been a terrible accident, an explosion in the mine" he gasped. Through clenched teeth he told Carrie she would have to use the old set of cross country skis and ski six miles down the canyon to get help.


Now the Young family had homesteaded an area on the Grays River in the 1920's. Sam, his wife and two sons were asleep in their small cabin. Sam awoke to the sound of his dog barking and he leaned up on an elbow to listen closer. He could hear the sound of another dog barking, so he arose, dressed and went outside into the frigid air. He followed the sound of the barking dog and soon saw it and knew the dog came from the mines up the canyon. The dog lead him to a shape laying on the ground. It was Carrie, exhausted and crying. She had given up. Sam brought her down to the cabin, warmed her up and she was then able to tell what had happened.

Sam and his son Rex donned winter gear and skied the six long miles up to the mine that night. They found Henry Ash in the cabin, dead. The four other miners they found in the mineshaft, also dead.
Deadman Cabin

It was determined that coal dust in the shaft from previous blasts had ignited when they set off the last blast of the day. It blew two mine cars clear across the canyon. The four miners inside the mine, John and Bill Baker, Denver Holbrook, and Rulon Ivie were killed instantly. Henry Ash, who was was outside the mine, died from his injuries when the tipple collapsed on him.

The Lincoln County highway crews, assisted by Civilian Conservation Corps workers, cleared seven feet of snow from 30 miles of the Grays River road and the six miles of access road up to the mine. Four of the bodies were sent home to North Carolina. Rulon Ivie was buried in Utah. Carrie Baker recovered and returned to the East, grateful to the Young family and her shaggy black dog that she had not perished as well.

I accidentally found out about (through the Ranger Station in Afton Wyoming) and tracked down the Grandson of Sam Young. To my great surprise, I learned that he lived only a couple miles from me. I called him up and talked at length about this area and it's history.

Deadman Lookout

The Mine, Canyon and the Mountain are now known by the name "Deadman". Deadman Mountain was used for a fire lookout from the 1930's to the late 60's. It still sits atop this remote peak. It is no wonder it was put here, the surrounding views are outstanding. The Salt River Range, the entire length of the Wind River Range, along with the Tetons and parts of the Gros Ventre can be seen, not to mention the surrounding mountains like Hoback and McDougal.

Trenton, Tate and I climbed this peak in the summer of 2007! Nice trip, well worth the effort to get there!

Trenton - Deadman Peak

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Mount McDougal

Tate and I planned a short overnight trip up into the Wyoming Range, for a jaunt up McDougal. This peak just north of Triple and south of Deadman. We found an exceptional camping spot a few miles downstream just above N. Cottonwood Creek. Perched on a bench we had an uninterrupted view from McDougal all the way past Triple Peak. Outstanding. Built a fire and cooked hamburgers and fried potatoes. Delicious!


Slept in the back of the Durango for expeditious reasons, and woke very early to get a good start on this short but steep trek. As I rolled down one of the windows a couple of frisky yearling elk paused long enough from play to look over at us from the edge of a meadow and then disappeared around some trees.

Wyoming Range

Triple Peak

**Better shots of McDougal can be found on the Triple Peak report, and this one shows shots of Triple.....

We ate while we drove the few miles to the trail head and were soon walking up the trail. We came to the old Cottonwood Coal Mine, not much more than a big pile of discarded low grade coal, with one building standing, the powder shack.

We left the trail and headed up the ever steepening slopes of our chosen peak. We soon left the scrubby vegetation and crossed slopes of rock that was at first fairly solid, but soon became the stuff that every climber hates - loose scree. You know, one step up, two steps back. We toughed it out and reached the upper slopes of this route, not the regular route I may add. Too much snow lay on the easier SE slopes still, so we picked our way carefully up a steep south ridge. One small steep section of class 4 and we found ourselves within a couple 100 feet from the top. Huge snow cornices blocked the final 20-30 feet. We thought about digging through but decided to call it good.

"Hoofin" it!

Tate on McDougal

Tate on McDougal

A short lunch / rest and we found ourselves on the way down. We saw an easier way to get to the trail head and took it, cutting off perhaps a quarter mile of trail. A great little "hike"!

Triple Peak

We had plenty of time to get home so we drove over to Daniel through the desert and down the Hoback to Granite Creek for a short soak in the hot spring located 1/4 mile downstream from the pool. Ahhhhhh!

Near Granite Creek Hot Springs